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The Alliance of Women Film Journalists has announced its awards for 2009:
With sincerest appreciation of all the great work that’s been done in film this year, the Alliance of Women Film Journalists is pleased to announce the winners of the 2009 EDA Awards for the best and worst of the year. The AWFJ, like the LA Film Critics, selected Kathryn Bigelow as best director for “The Hurt Locker,” and named it the best film as well. AWFJ also selected “winners” in categories like “sexist pig” (“The Ugly Truth”), biggest age disparity between leading man and lady (40 years in “Whatever Works”), and actress most in need of a new agent (Hilary Swank, whose film “Amelia” was selected as “film you most wanted to love but couldn’t”). The momentum continues to build in for supporting actor Christoph Waltz and supporting actress Mo’Nique, giving them a virtual shut-out so far. If the Broadcast Film Critics select them, too, they will be hard to beat for the Oscars.
Best Film:
The Hurt Locker
Best Animated Film:
Best Director:
Kathryn Bigelow – The Hurt Locker
Best Screenplay, Original:
(500) Days of Summer – Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber
Best Screenplay, Adapted
Up In The Air – Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner
Best Documentary
The Cove
Best Actress
Carey Mulligan – An Education
Best Actress In Supporting Role
Monique – Precious
Best Actor
Jeff Bridges – Crazy Heart
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Christopher Waltz – Inglorious Basterds
Best Ensemble Cast
The Hurt Locker
Best Editing
Sally Menke – Inglorious Basterds
Most Beautiful Film
Bright Star
Best Non-English-Language Film
Summer Hours
Best Woman Director
Kathryn Bigelow – The Hurt Locker
Best Woman Screenwriter
Jane Campion – Bright Star
Best Animated Female
Coraline in Coraline
Best Breakthrough Performance
Carey Mulligan – An Education
Women’s Image Award
Kathryn Bigelow
Perseverance Award
Agnes Varda
Actress Defying Age and Ageism
Meryl Streep – Julie & Julia and It’s Complicated
Sexist Pig Award
Robert Luketic for The Ugly Truth
This Year’s Outstanding Achievement By A Woman In The Film Industry
Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker
Lifetime Achievement Award
Agnes Varda
AWFJ Award For Humanitarian Activism
Rebecca Cammisa for Which Way Home
AWFJ Hall Of Shame Award
Robert Luketic – The Ugly Truth
Actress Most in Need Of A New Agent
Hilary Swank
Movie You Wanted To Love But Just Couldn’t
Unforgettable Moment Award (Tie)
Inglorious Basterds – Shoshanna (Melanie Laurent) burns down the theater
Precious – Mary (Mo’Nique) admits the abuse
Best Depiction Of Nudity, Sexuality, or Seduction (Tie)
An Education – Carey Mulligan and Peter Saarsgard
It’s Complicated – – Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin
Sequel That Shouldn’t Have Been Made Award
Transformers Revenge of the Fallen
The Remake That Shouldn’t Have Been Made Award
Land of the Lost
Cultural Crossover Award
District 9
Bravest Performance Award
Mo’Nique in Precious
Most Egregious Age Difference Between The Leading Man and The Love Interest Award
Whatever Works – Larry David and Evan Rachel Wood (40 years difference)
To make sure you see the best of 2009, check out all the nominees.

Kirk Jones, a British writer/director, is best known in America for the delightful comedy “Waking Ned Divine.” His first American movie is Everybody’s Fine, a remake of an Italian film, with Robert DeNiro as the father of four adult children who don’t feel they can tell him the truth about what is going on in their lives. I spoke to him about parents, children, and an outsider’s view of the American landscape.
NM: How do you decide how much to protect your parents or children or how much to tell them?
KJ: That’s a fantastic question. It’s the first time I’ve been asked that but I was expecting to hear it a lot more often. I have to say I don’t know the answer. It’s an incredibly fine line. We should all be totally and completely honest with each other. But we’re all sophisticated enough to know and our emotions are sophisticated enough to know that there are times when if you don’t need to fill people in on every detail of every situation then that can only help protect them and their own emotions. I’m certainly not proposing that we keep huge secrets from each other but it is human nature to want to protect the person you care about the most and at times that means not being 100 percent honest with them
NM: How did you as someone from outside the US use the settings to help tell the story?
KJ: I was very aware that as an English writer and film-maker that I needed to take this road trip very seriously, so I flew to New York and went cross-country to Vegas mostly on Greyhounds and Amtrak. I drove a little bit as well just to get off the main highways. And I went across the country on a three-week trip. I took about 2000 photographs and interviewed about 100 people.
A number of things happened. I felt I really got under the skin of this country and felt I was much more qualified to go back to London and write a road trip movie that takes place here. The second thing was on a daily basis I was inspired with ideas that I saw out of the window of the bus and the train and they went directly into the script. Things like Frank’s occupation. I knew it was important. I knew I wanted it to have some relevance. I kept looking at truck stops and factories, trying to work out what he could do. Literally, I was traveling from St. Louis to Kansas on an Amtrak train. I looked out the window and my focus shifted to the telephone wires, and I just thought how beautiful and elegant they were and I looked at the wire and I thought, “Someone has to cut that wire and someone has to protect it from the elements.” And what a beautiful irony it would be if Frank had helped all these people communicate and protected the line of communication but was struggling to communicate with his own family. So that kind of dropped into place.
And I realized this was a chance to show these stunning landscapes. This country is so beautiful. Most of the people I talked to have not traveled as much as I did. I think that’s very common. I haven’t traveled very much in the UK. We take our own homeland for granted. We feel like we know it because we see it on the news or we see it in pictures, read about it in encyclopedias or studied it in school. But I think it is very important to get out there and appreciate the beauty of your own country.
I knew I wanted to include these landscapes but I didn’t want to just insert them in the movie as I think happens in other films just because they’re pretty pictures. I wanted to dramatically have a reason for them being there. So, I thought, the wires are stretching between the poles. The poles are incredibly graphic, these wooden crosses stretching across the country, through deserts and mountainous areas. So there was a dramatic reason to include the poles and the wires and we could hear the conversations and at the same time it allowed me to present the beautiful landscapes.
NM: Your stars in this film are all very accomplished and talented actors but they have very different styles of acting. How did you make that work for the movie?
JK: I was very keen that the level of acting throughout the film should be very natural. This is a film about a real family and the real problems they have. As a film-maker, I always find that it’s more effective to present a realistic view of the world because then you have a better chance of the audience believing in it and therefore investing in it emotionally. So the brief for the actors in general was to underplay, to keep it believable. As the younger daughter, more insecure, drawn to the bright lights, Drew’s way was to overcompensate and be bubbly and charming and more affectionate. I think that is often the way with the youngest.
NM: Is there one theme you keep coming back to?
JK: In the modern world, the importance of us communicating as families. It’s common for us to consider keeping in touch as something on our to-do list. When we used to live more predominantly in communities, more people had direct contact with their brothers and sisters and parents and children. Now it’s much more common for people to say, “I need to be in LA” or “I need to be in New York.” Supposedly we have more sophisticated ways to keep in touch with cell phones and the internet and texting and Skyping and video conferencing. But it takes quite an effort to make that call. Even though it is easier to keep in touch I am not sure that translates to actually keeping in touch. So many people leave this film saying, “I have to ring my Mum. I have to talk to my brothers and sisters.” That is a very fulfilling theme to be able to address.

In his last two movies, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) was becoming an adolescent. In this gripping and atmospheric film, based on the sixth book in the series, Harry Potter is becoming a man. He knows who he is and what he must do. He is angry and at times he is still impatient. He is developing confidence and judgment. But he is not yet ready to admit to himself, much less to Ron Weasley’s sister Ginny (Bonnie Wright) that he likes her very much.

Once again, author J.K. Rowling and screenwriter Steve Kloves expertly blend the most intimate and personal of teenage feelings with the grander concerns about the fate of the world. Indeed the two themes do more than blend; they complement each other. The threats deepen and become more complex as the children grow up. The personal is political, and vice versa.

As the film begins, the disturbances in the wizard world have become so pervasive that even the muggle society is affected. In an early scene that highlights sleek, post-industrial London, we see a bridge collapse due to a form of terrorist attack by the Death Eaters, the followers of He Who Must Not Be Named. But then we are back to the Victorian intricacies of the wizard world of Diagon Alley and Hogwarts. Harry is reputed to be the “chosen one” who can defeat Lord Voldemort. But there is another chosen one. Draco Malfoy, his father disgraced and in prison, returns to Hogwarts having undertaken some task so dangerous that his mother and aunt have visited Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) to insist on his unbreakable vow to provide support and protection.

Director David Yates and “Amelie” cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel brilliantly evoke the magical world, narrow, constricting spaces emphasizing the dire circumstances and adult awareness closing in on the characters. The special effects are organic and absorbing. Oddly, just moments after a beautiful transformation from easy chair to wizard, the one effect that does not work as smoothly is the simplest, as the footage is run backwards to magically restore a room that has been trashed. But the more complex effects and the overall look of the film are superb.

There is a new teacher of Defense Against the Dark Arts, of course. This time it is Snape, his Potions class taken over by Professor Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), who shows a special fondness for “collecting” star students like Harry but whose memory holds a crucial key to Voldemort’s strength — and his vulnerability. An exposition-heavy entry in the book series that sets up the powerful final volume (being split in two for filming) is absorbing on screen due to its control of tone and atmosphere and some truly creepy moments involving Helena Bonham Carter, happily gruesome as Bellatrix Lestrange and a couple of marvelously-staged action sequences.

There are classroom scenes as Harry finds help in an old potions textbook with an inscription that says it belonged to the “Half-Blood Prince” and extensive annotations that help him become a top student. There is a Quidditch game and a battle in one of the huge Hogwarts bathrooms. But increasingly the activities of Harry and his loyal friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson).expand beyond the classrooms. Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) relies on Harry for help in exposing Voldemort, their relationship developing into more of a partnership. Dumbledore’s most important lesson may be that Harry can do some things that even Dumbeldore cannot. This makes us, as well as Harry, all the more eager to see what comes next.

When all the world is caught up in Christmas, it can help to have some DVDs on hand to explain that some people celebrate a different holiday at this time of year, especially when the stories and songs are told by familiar friends. Here are some of the best:
Lights: The Miracle Of Chanukah Judd Hirsch, Leonard Nimoy, and others tell the story of the Macabees in this 1987 animated story.
Lambchop’s Chanukah and Passover Surprise Sheri Lewis and her puppet Lambchop bring a sense of curiosity and wonder to the celebration, and a sense of fun, too as they sing while they make latkes.
A Rugrats Chanukah Unfortunately available only on VHS, this is a charming introduction that includes some historical context and prayers as well as the usual Rugrats silliness.
Chanuka & Passover at Bubbe’s A nice introduction to the history and traditions of the holiday.
There’s No Such Thing as a Chanukah Bush, Sandy Goldstein This is a rare movie that frankly and sensitively portrays the pressure on kids to conform and how it feels to be left out of a celebration that seems to occupy the entire world in December. It gives families a way to acknowledge and even share the celebrations of others while feeling pride in their own traditions.
A Taste of Chanukah A delightful concert performance with Theodore Bikel.